A Simple Plan – 2 stars

A Simple Plan.  This is Sam Raimi’s Fargo without the sweep, innovation or strong characterizations.  It settles for snow and violence.

Three men, two of them brothers (Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton) find money. They try to keep it. Things go terribly wrong in the process.

Thornton was deservedly nominated for best supporting actor.  He plays an alternatively canny and dimwitted local yokel who unravels as “things go wrong.”  His portrayal is crafty, and he captures the essence of the childlike, simple brother who stays home to drink at the the same bar and feed his dog in the same town with the same unemployment office.

Raimi’s direction is workmanlike and forgettable.  In the end, however, the script sinks the ship.  Paxton is dumber than a hound’s tooth.  Worse, he is singularly uninteresting.  He is the protagonist we are forced to follow, more so than Thornton.  Bridget Fonda plays his newly greedy wife, a transformation that takes her over in a milisecond, making it unconvincing and boring.  In fact, it would be hard to cast two thinner actors than Paxton and Fonda.  Perhaps this was the strategy, to show everyday folks turned to greedy dullards, but they were everyday dullards first.  The plan simply wasn’t simple enough for these snoozers.

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